Academic journal article Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline

Double Helix Relationships in Use and Design of Informing Systems: Lessons to Learn from Phenomenology and Hermeneutics

Academic journal article Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline

Double Helix Relationships in Use and Design of Informing Systems: Lessons to Learn from Phenomenology and Hermeneutics

Article excerpt

Preface

This editorial is organized in the following way: First there is an introduction to the theme of the monograph followed by an overview of its content. The overview describes perspectives chosen by the different authors and connecting patterns within the monograph. In the next section the editors explain what the monograph offers to the reader and also specifically comment on what it does not offer. The monograph concludes with a glossary that explains some of the specific meanings attributed to some terms used in the monograph.

Introduction

The original idea for this monograph grew out of a conversation between Peter Bednar and Eli Cohen, the then editor-in-chief of Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline (http://Inform.NU), that took place during the InSITE conference (http://InSITE.NU) at Flagstaff, Arizona in 2005. Peter and Eli discussed approaches to IS research that are based in phenomenology and hermeneutics and Peter outlined his idea of a relationship between use and experience of use in IS, using a double helix metaphor. As a result of this conversation, Eli expressed interest in promoting a monograph, a special series of articles in the journal that focuses on these ideas. The proposal was taken to Professor emeritus Hans-Erik Nissen of Lund University in Sweden, who agreed to become senior guest editor for the suggested monograph. The proposal also included promotion of a ministrand at the following InSITE conference in Manchester in 2006. By that time a number of papers had been received for presentation and panel discussion at the conference. Professor Hans-Erik Nissen introduced the ministrand by elaborating two interpretations of a double helix metaphor based on the double helix of DNA. At the conference, productive sharing of ideas and discussion of phenomenology and hermeneutics took place. These discussions were both enjoyable and useful for the following process of revising the papers.

The theme of this monograph of Informing Science is a dialectic we perceive to exist between meaningful use and reflection upon use (using the double helix metaphor). The perspective taken focuses on mutual learning where the key is the "mutual" part--i.e., that workers and information technology analysts must jointly explore, describe, and understand the nature of the work to be supported. This need for mutual learning entails people in both theory and practice.

When we began to think about this theme, it was in part because we felt somewhat isolated in our research perspective and wanted to touch base with other, contemporary, like-minded researchers. We were very pleased therefore, when our call for papers went out, that a number of very different and high quality contributions began to arrive. These contributions came from places as far apart as Bath in the UK, Lund in Sweden, Monash in Australia, Ohio in the USA. They covered widely differing applications of the theme, from organizational problem-solving to multidimensional mapping of conceptual evolution; from field experiences to categorization of knowledge captured in the existing literature. We are privileged that the quality of these papers was matched by very high quality in the reviews provided by academics from around the world, ranging from Japan to Denmark.

Our aim is to acquaint readers with some fundamental ideas from phenomenology and hermeneutics and then to offer them some reports illustrating how such ideas have been adapted to improve practice. The aim is to let readers share the ways of reflecting and acting of the authors. These few examples are indicative of some ways in which theories and practice of Informing Science potentially could benefit from insights in how to apply phenomenological and hermeneutic ideas. However, as Whitaker (in this monograph) warns these ideas are not easily applied in practice, as they have to be adapted creatively to particular situations. …

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